Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Does God hire bullies?

There is a certain type of critic of Calvinism who feels that he must embellish it in order to gain a foothold for his criticism. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, the embellishment does not seem to rest satisfied until it has created a monster. This is nothing new. Calvin had cause to complain in his own day:

"If you will attack my doctrine, why not at least show candour enough to quote my own language?" 

Again, CH Spurgeon remarked:

"The most infamous allegations have been brought against us, and sometimes, I must fear, by men who knew them to be utterly untrue: and, to this day, there are many of our opponents, who, when they run short of matter, invent and make for themselves a man of straw, call that John Calvin and then shoot all their arrows at it. We are not come here to defend your man of straw — shoot at it or burn it as you will, and, if it suit your convenience, still oppose doctrines which were never taught, and rail at fictions which, save in your own brain, were never in existence." (7:550)

Hiring a bully is tantamount to bullying itself.  Is God guilty of hiring bullies or bullying? We stoutly reply in the negative. 

1) The bully is one who uses his power - in school usually his height and muscles or connections - to inflict misery on his victims. Bullying in schools is a punishable offence, often followed by the persistent bully being expelled from the school. In some countries of the world, bullying (especially online) is fast becoming a criminal offence. Bullying has led to suicides. To associate God whose name is Love and whose ways are always just and righteousness etc., with such an activity is nothing less than a vile blasphemy.

 2) That God uses the activities of the wicked to accomplish His will is beyond doubt to anyone with even a smattering of Bible knowledge. In Acts 2:23, and supplemented by Acts 4:27-28, we read how He not only took, but pre determined the activity of the wicked hands of the bullies at the Cross and through their activity brought about the salvation of His elect. No one (except apostates like Steve Chalke) suggests that God was a bully when He purposely permitted those men to do what they did and made holy and good use of their work. 

3) To hire a bully is to reward favourably him for his work. Yet God nowhere in the Bible has done a deal with anyone to benefit from their sin. God has consistently declared that the wage of any sin is death. That the wicked prosper is noted (Psalm 73) but that it is because God effectively contracted a deal with them to do so is (again) blasphemeous. Certainly Calvinism doesn't teach it and neither does any form of Evangelical Christianity. It is, as Spurgeon noted above, but a fiction existing only in the brain of those who state or suggest it. 

4) The critic, in his concocted illustration above, represents God merely making use of the bully to teach valuable lessons to his son. Is that it? As the illustration stands, the father can only make the best of a bad job. We have two forces at work here. The obvious one is the bully who is causing great distress. The other is the father - perhaps the more helpless of the two - who can only comfort his child with a few lessons to lessen his pain. Here is another reason why the analogy breaks up. As the argument stands in its bare presentation, God seems unable to step in and prevent anything. He cannot control the event at all - because once you introduce the matter of control into the argument, you become a Calvinist and subject to some (not necessarily the tweeter above) saying that you have reduced man to being a puppet.

5) Let me give you the Biblical and since Calvinists seek to be Biblical, the Calvinist position. God does not hire the wicked. He makes full use of them. When it comes to sin, He purposes to permit them to do certain things to further His own end. The use of the word "ordain" does not automatically mean "author" although it certainly suits the critic of Calvinism to portray it as such. But we should not let the critic redefine the meaning of words. 

Man is always responsible for his sinful actions. Wicked deeds are always sourced to his wicked heart (Mark 7:21-23). God reserves and exercises the right to take man's wicked deeds and use them for His own ultimate glory. He governs all His creatures and all of their actions. 

SCENARIO: Let's suppose a child of God really is being literally bullied.  The office manager is giving him a hard time simply because he is a Christian. His faith is constantly scorned. He gives him the nick name of "Holy Joe" while snide and blasphemeous remarks are the order of the day. 

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long? 
Could God intervene and prevent this from happening? Yes. God could exercise a number of options. He could remove the bully from the scene by means either low key (i.e. a transfer) or high key means i.e. the bully drops dead. He could soften and restrain the bully's heart so that he gets fed up scorning the Christian and might even apologise to him for all the hurt and distress caused. God might even save the bully and the erstwhile thorn in the Christian's side becomes his greatest Christian friend. 

However, God does not prevent the bullying from taking place. Indeed, the fire might be stoked even hotter because God sees that the trial of this Christian's faith is indeed precious, and there is still dross to be removed. God has great plans for the poor Christian in the office. Unknown to the Christian is the fact that God is going to call him into the ministry.  And there in his first pastorate, he will face bullying from a number of quarters. So all this office stuff is just preparation for these days. And the new pastor will survive this wicked onslaught because he has been tried in the fire and is strong enough to see it through. Something that could never be said had life been kinder in the earlier office days. 

Did God plan this to happen? Yes. God doesn't think on the hoof. He knows the end from the beginning. Did God make good use of the bully's free decision to mock the office worker Christian? Yes. Did the bully sin of necessity? No. The Bible does not teach it and neither does Calvinism. The freedom of the creature's will is never violated by the decree of God. Sometimes God withdraws His restraining grace to allow the sinner to reveal a fuller expression of his wickedness. Sometimes, as a mercy to the wicked and those around him (but especially to God's church) he softens the wicked heart and graciously restrains it. But He never violates the free will of the sinner. And if God decrees to use the wicked's actions to further His divine will, then we can only bow in reverential awe and say; "How great Thou art!" 

Must end here. Others have worded the issues better than me. I suggest that you take the time to peruse the following posts:


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